Sidelines: Guide to college football bowl games

Sidelines%3A+Guide+to+college+football+bowl+games

As a school that just barely missed out on the college football playoffs after our team went 4-7 in the Patriot League, it is only right for us at The Lafayette to give our input on the set of bowl games slated for New Year’s.

Cotton Bowl (USC vs Tulane)

USC: Lincoln Riley caused a college football-wide stir when he left Oklahoma for the University of Southern California just one year ago, but since then he has completely turned around the Trojans’ fortune. This is thanks to amazing acquisitions in the transfer portal like Heisman frontrunner QB Caleb Williams and WR Jordan Addison as well as a defense that had one of the highest turnover differentials in the country.

Tulane: A perfect narrative foil to USC in all forms, Tulane is led by their sixth-year, journeyman head coach Willie Fritz. Fritz has stayed loyal and transformed a struggling program into a consistently good team that has never been able to take that next step. This year, they have finally done so by upsetting Cincinnati, a playoff participant a year ago, and winning the Group of Five titles.

Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs Kansas State)

Alabama: The Crimson Tide finds itself outside the playoffs for only the second time in eight years. Coach Nick Saban’s team is led by QB Bryce Young, the Heisman winner last year and presumptive first overall pick, as well as a dominant defensive front seven. However, the Tide have struggled more than in previous years due to a lack of standouts at skill positions and among the offensive linemen.

Kansas State: The Wildcats have crashed the New Year’s Six party for the first time since 2011 by defeating the formerly undefeated TCU to win the Big 12 Championship. Led by three-time FCS national championship-winning head coach Chris Klieman and all-American running back Deuce Vaughn, KSU will look for a program-defining upset over Alabama. The game will come down to line play, and whether Kansas State can block Alabama’s front seven enough to run their offense.

Rose Bowl (Penn State vs Utah)

Penn State: After two years of mediocrity, the Nittany Lions are back in the New Year’s Six, returning to a place where they suffered possibly their most heartbreaking loss of the James Franklin era against USC in 2016. Sean Clifford returns as QB and is complimented by two standout freshman running backs and a three-headed monster at both receiver and tight end. The defense has lost its best player but will still look to shut down Utah’s stop-start offense.

Utah:  The Utes return to the Rose Bowl after last year’s loss to Ohio State, having won the Pac-12 for the second straight year. Head Coach Kyle Whittingham has built Utah from a Group of Five standout to a consistent Power Five, double-digit win program. This year is no different, with QB Cam Rising and the Utes upsetting USC and keeping them out of the playoffs.

Orange Bowl (Tennessee vs Clemson)

Tennessee: The story of Tennessee’s season is one of immense promise and massive disappointment. Starting out the season undefeated and winning the game of the year against Alabama, Tennessee then fell to Georgia before watching their Heisman-contending QB get injured in their playoff-eliminating loss to South Carolina. However, the Volunteers are back on a national stage and backup QB Joe Milton will look to take home their first Orange Bowl trophy since Peyton Manning.

Clemson: Coach Dabo Sweeny has now gone three years since making the playoff as quarterback struggles have held the Tigers’ great defense back all year. It came to a head when Clemson lost to South Carolina for the first time since 2013, only going 99 yards through the air for the entire game. However, they turned a corner by winning the ACC championship game as they finally started redshirt freshman Cade Klubnik.

Playoff Games:

Peach Bowl (Georgia vs Ohio State)

Georgia: What can be said about the Bulldogs that hasn’t been said already? The reigning national champions have not lost a game in over a year, they have Heisman candidate Stetson Bennett at QB and nine all-conference selections. Head Coach Kirby Smart has built a juggernaut on both sides of the ball that continues to restore itself every year. They are bigger and better this year than they were last year after losing 15 starters to the NFL.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes might on paper have the most talented roster in college football. However, they have struggled many times throughout the course of the season to maintain consistency. QB CJ Stroud is a standout and every receiver he throws to is a five-star, yet they found themselves in dogfights with subpar opponents. If they can play up to their capabilities, they could give the Dawgs a game.

Fiesta Bowl (Michigan vs TCU) 

Michigan: Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines have put together their second straight Big Ten championship-winning season thanks to their annihilation of Ohio State and their cakewalk through the rest of the conference. They have succeeded in large part due to their run game off the back of RB Blake Corum but also can put the ball in the air with five-star QB JJ McCarthy. If there was one team that could upset Georgia this year, it would be the Maize and Blue.

TCU: The Horned Frogs came out of nowhere this year, with new coach Sonny Dykes leading them to an undefeated record in the regular season and a last-second overtime loss in the Big 12 Championship. Senior QB Max Duggan has become the leader they have always hoped he would turn into and they are poised to try and make some noise in the playoff. Their biggest weakness is their ability to stop the run which is a big deal against a running team like Michigan.

My Predictions: USC, Alabama, Penn State, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan.

Michigan surprises everyone, upsets Georgia and wins the National Championship.